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Permadeath or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Hardcore Mode

Even the Skeleton King got his second chance

At the expense of giving the impression that this blog is all about Diablo III (it’s not) here is another topic related to the recently released Blizzard game. (It’s not my fault that I decided to start a blog so close to this game’s launch! Well, in actual fact it is, but the two are unrelated).

A lot has been said in favor of Diablo III’s hardcore mode (Gamespot, Eurogamer). The arguments are roughly the same. The game becomes more exciting, your choice of skills is more meaningful and you get to care more for your character and what you do with it. In short this is Diablo III as was intended and according to the opinions linked ‘if you’re not playing hardcore, then you are doing it wrong’. It’s about the journey not the destination, and indeed hardcore mode does make the journey much more thrilling and meaningful. I know, I started a hardcore Demon Hunter myself (although still at a modest level 8). You tend to take nothing for granted when the character you invested hours upon hours (I use the term invested lightly here) ends up erased from the face of the earth because you ran into a swarm of hell spawn without considering that there are a couple of elites mingling in the crowd.

DIII is not the first game to have this feature and won’t be the last. And here is my point: Diablo III is doing hardcore mode wrong. Disclaimer here! This is my opinion, it’s what I think. But I will tell you exactly why I think this is the case:

  1. First things first. Let me get the most glaringly obvious point out of the way. Diablo III requires an internet connection to play. This means lag. This means that you WILL die due to circumstances which are beyond your control. No internet connection is 100% reliable. Sometimes the Blizzard servers cock it up, and this will happen no matter what premium you pay for your connection. Therefore, as enticing it is to take a hardcore character seriously, the fact that you are at the mercy of the internet connection turns what should be a test of skill and caution into a veritable lottery. If your name gets pulled out of the hat you win a one way trip to permadeath.
  2. As I outlined in a previous post there is a high degree of randomness in the game’s dna. It is necessary to give longevity to a game which requires you to go through the content more than once or twice. This does pose a problem though. Sometimes the game’s code plays a nasty trick on you and throws an insurmountable obstacle in your way. Two groups of elites next to one another, each having three complementing abilities. A demonic cocktail of death (of the ‘perma’ kind). Right here the hardcore supporters might stand up and tell me ‘Mr. Hamster, that’s the whole point. You have to tread carefully. It’s what keeps you on your toes!’. True that, but consider this. You meet said potpourri of doom and calculate that your chance of survival is 10%. What do you do? Simple: log out and back in. Problem solved. Another random set of monsters will appear, possibly kinder ones who might just let you go on your journey to level 60. You might rightly say that those who partake in such cowardly practices are only cheating themselves. I would then rightly say that when they successfully reach level 60 while you lose your level 40 because you attempt to take on the ‘impossible’ mob (after careful planning and skill juggling) and fail then you might be the one feeling cheated.
  3. Now if you are part of the minority who honestly care little about hours (possibly days) invested in a character and more about the quality of the experience you can skip this last point (and refer back to points 1 and 2). For the other 99% I say this: Why is it that Blizzard did not see it fit to give some kind of meaningful reward to hardcore players? Letting me keep one piece of armour/weapon from my demised hero and augmenting it according to the highest level that character attained, for instance. Or giving me a special gem depending on the level of the character I just lost. Some further incentive and a kind of consolation prize for the unfortunate who has to say farewell to a dearly departed. It might be all about the journey, but would it hurt that much if there was some kind of destination other than a quick boot to the character creation screen?


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5 thoughts on “Permadeath or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Hardcore Mode

  1. Thanks for the article! While I agree with all the points you’ve made, I just don’t understand the post’s title. From what you’ve written, it seems like you haven’t “stopped worrying and learned to love Hardcore mode,” but are instead both worrying about and not loving Hardcore mode, to a fair degree.

    1. Ah titles! I am still getting to grips with titles. I just chose this because it sounds witty. I AM trying to love hardcore mode to be fair. But the issues I outlined have me worrying too much so I am not giving my hardcore character much play time at the moment.

      Thanks for the feedback. Much appreciated.

  2. I understood the title and how it could mean the exact opposite. But then again, I watched Dr. Strangelove and get the reference.

    The thought of a reward never occurred to me. That’s an excellent point. Other than the epeen achievement thing that all my friends can see (which is a bit of reward in and of itself) it WOULD be nice to have some kind of trophy to account for it. I’m level 29 in hardcore normal with a petless Witch Doctor. Normal is very easy and I’ve geared myself up off the auction house to ridiculous levels by watching for deals. So, while I’m not worried right now about the mobs themselves, I am nervously aware of every little lagspike that rears its ugly head. I can’t even think of Nightmare mode and beyond right now. I’d need Tums.

    Followed here from Kill Ten Rats, just FYI.

    1. Heh, the chance to reference Dr. Strangelove was too tempting to pass, despite the ambiguous title.

      I have to say level 29 on hardcore Normal is quite impressive. Sadly the difficulty in Nightmare ramps it up quite a bit. Tried the petless Witchdoctor myself (not on hardcore) and despite my initial reservations its lots of fun to play. My Hardcore character is on hiatus, at least until they sort out their servers.

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